Classic Movies

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  • Chris D
    Moderator Emeritus
    • Dec 2000
    • 16877

    Classic Movies

    Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to read all of the "classic" works of literature, and dove into a reading list including Stranger in a Strange Land, Catcher in the Rye, various Asimov, Steinbeck, Ayn Rand, etc. I'm making progress.

    Since then, I've started to buy and watch the classic "greats" of films as well, including Ben Hur, Citizen Kane, My Fair Lady, the Sound of Music, the Music Man (original, not recent remake), Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, and so on. You know what? I was a little surprised at how INTERESTING they were! I didn't expect any of them to be junk, of course, since many of them were nominated or won "Best Picture of the Year" and such. But I think many of us just assume that classic movies are just not as ENTERTAINING as current movies--who wants to watch a dumb old black and white movie with cheesy acting when you can watch the latest blow-em-up dazzling special effects thriller movie on DVD?

    Sadly, I think this is probably true of many film viewers today, and that there's no way that they would sit through Citizen Kane today, much less find it interesting. On the director's commentary of CK, they pointed out that Orson Wells directed entire scenes at times with one constant rolling shot, without camera cuts, lasting for minutes. With our current society so plagued with Attention Deficit Disorder, this would not be tolerated in films for the common public today. (another discussion for another time would be if current styles of television and movie presentations perpetuate this constantly decreasing attention span)

    Watching these movies got me thinking: Are classic movies generally of higher quality as a media than modern films? Or vice versa? Or a little of both? Those who know me know that one of my strongest opinions of books, movies, and television is that current society is LOSING THE ART OF STORYTELLING. I am entertained by a big explosion, deep bass, and cool surround sound just as much as the next guy. (heck, I'm building an entire room based on that) But to me, that's entertainment, not necessarily storytelling, which engages the mind, imagination, and heart. That's why I appreciate current movies like the Star Wars saga, Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, etc. They take you beyond a 90 minute time period of entertainment, where your mind is simply babysat, and instead engage you in a new WORLD of stories, characters, history, and above all, LIFE.

    Watching classic movies, there is a stark difference in styles and techniques to modern film. Some would argue that the modern works are better, having evolved from earlier forms and utilizing the latest technology. I would argue that the existence of newer technologies makes a fatal trap that takes the producer away from relying on good storytelling and directing techniques. New technology isn't inherently bad, as I think that Pixar has done an amazing job of staying true to good storytelling while using the latest-and-greatest to support the story, especially with the Toy Story duos. But I would say that this is the exception. Even a well-intending producer can become reliant on special effects, sex appeal, or violence to keep the audience's interest instead of using plot, AUGMENTED with some of the aforementioned items, as well as foreshadowing, irony, lighting, color, shadows, blocking, camera angles, etc.

    (pause in my rant... I'm off to see Return of the King)

    Classic movies do have a surreal feel to the story and acting. It's not what I would describe as "stiff" or "wooden", but you don't really see people acting like that in real life for the most part. So be it. But there is quite an appeal to the drama and the story that I just don't know if you get anymore. Will we ever see another film in the likes of Citizen Kane, with pure genius in production and direction? Would the movie studios even allow a genius to make a great film like that today, not oriented to selling tickets?

    I suppose it might be true that the list of some classics I gave could be reproduced with modern films, listing 10-20 movies that are recent but just as fantastic. There were bad movies 50 years ago just as there are today. We do have good ones today. But I wonder if we've lost a little something in film making that may or may not be undescribable, but changes the whole outcome as a work of art.

    (as a side note, I found the commentary by Roger Ebert on the Citizen Kane DVD to be extremely enlightening and deep. It gave me a whole new appreciation of that movie and viewing films in general. THAT is what all DVD commentaries should strive to be like, not of some bimbo that sits and watches the movie with you, making occasional comments of "I like this part" and "this is nice", i.e. Forrest Gump's commentary)






    CHRIS
    Luke: "Hey, I'm not such a bad pilot myself, you know"
    CHRIS

    Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
    - Pleasantville
  • aud19
    Twin Moderator Emeritus
    • Aug 2003
    • 16706

    #2
    To a certain point I agree that a good portion of modern day entertainment, be it TV, movies or whatever does sometimes rely too much on flash and glitz and not enough on substance. I would also say that's probably the biggest reason why it's even more difficult now than ever to make a good movie, not relying on technology. The temptation is right there and the ease to which a director can utilize technology must be tempting indeed. I can't imagine the struggle a director might have now with himself and the studios to make a good movie, keep it entertaining and make it saleable all while trying to keep the substance in tact. I still do believe that the story is the bass of every good movie that allows it to surpass being "just entertainment". I think a good example of this would be M. Knight Shyamalan's (man I hope I spelled that correctly...lol) movies which tend to be very character and story driven with a not small nod to Hitchcock and generally very few special effects. I think when done right, to add to and enhance the story and characters of a movie, SFX, CG and the like can only make good movies better. It's when the filmakers/studios try to substitute those things for the story and characters that you end up with mere entertainment or worse, just a plain bad movie. Imagine if somehow the directors of those great, classic movies had the tools of modern directors back then. Imagine how much better the movies would be with their existing substance AND modern technology. I don't think I can even glimpse how much more engrossing a Hitchcock film could have been with a well done original 5.1 mix. Or something grand like Lawrence of Arabia, or Gone with the Wind etc..

    Jason




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    Jason

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    • David Meek
      Moderator Emeritus
      • Aug 2000
      • 8938

      #3
      Interesting thread Chris! :T

      Absolutely, there is a growing trend to mindlessness and formulaic storylines in movies and television. Technological improvements in the industry - not just CGI - have led to a bigger/more-of-the-same mentality that is not only repetitive and boring, but disturbing. Why do we need to see the same jump/crash/explosion sequence over and over again? One poster child movie that comes to mind is xXx. Lots of mindless action, voluptuous scantily clad women, and little or no plot or acting present. And they even make a Superbit DVD out of it! Sheesh.

      The proper use of technology, however, can greatly enhance a movie. For example, look at the character of Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. He comes to life, adding depth and believability to that part of the storyline. This couldn't have been done even 10 years ago, and IMO the story would have been sorely lessened with an actor in a rubber suit trying to pull it off. But again, that's the proper usage of the technology available. Also, the gigantic battle scenes in the same films simply wouldn't have worked to the extent they do with extras - imagine the difficulty in costuming/equipping, instructing and finally filming (over and over) the thousands of extras that would be needed. With the programming and CPU horsepower available now, that's not an issue. But that brings me back to the start of this - it's the proper use of the tools available. And, unfortunately, that's a minority usage of the technological tools available.

      There ARE actors and directors capable today of greatness, though. For actors, I give you this sample (feel free to disagree - but you get my point):
      Robert DeNiro
      Jack Nicholson
      Kevin Spacey
      Jean Reno
      Rober Duvall
      Russell Crowe

      For actresses:
      Meryl Streep
      Nicole Kidman
      Gwyneth Paltrow
      Cate Blanchett
      Jennifer Connelly

      For directors:
      Peter Jackson
      M. Night Shyamalan
      Ridley Scott
      Luc Besson

      And these are just "off the top of my head". I guess what is missing is the courage by the studios in general to:
      1. 1) veer away from the money-making formula
        2) promote a smaller, risky film that may be great
        3) be seen as less than hip or in-step
      There have been successes, like Il Postino, but they are fairly few and far between.

      What do you think?




      David - HTGuide flunky
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      • mkoreiwo
        Junior Member
        • Sep 2003
        • 4

        #4
        Good points all!

        I've a friend who won't buy any "classic'" movie since they're in B/W and mono!!! Of course, he also thinks "Once Upon a time in China" is a good film...

        I have lond been a fan of the movies of the 30's, 40's and 50's, and while we probably haven't seen all the bad movies that came out of that era, the good ones show IMHO a higher standard of writing than the majority of what we are pumping out these days. Maybe we are losing our creative edge, or maybe it is simple greed: why should a studio back an original idea that possibly won't make money, when a formulaic mindless FX extravaganza will certainly make a buck or two?

        I saw LOTR ROTK last week, and while it certainly was spectacular I found myself figgetting in my seat (I wasn't feeling 100% that day I must confess - was coming down with a virus/cold that could apply). All that action just got repetitive... I'll probably be the only person to criticize this movie... Seabiscuit on the otherhand, I loved! I consider that a piece of good modern writing... There are many other modern classics out there, but I think that there are many excellent old films out there that deserve to be on DVD and watched by many.... Mavbe people would then see what trash we're being sold (in general) these days!




        Mike K.
        Mike K.

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        • BradF
          Member
          • Nov 2003
          • 41

          #5
          Just a few random thoughts:

          I like, and even prefer, that old school, stop-action style of animation, as used in the original King Kong and the Harryhausen pictures for example. As creaky as it is, I still think it holds up quite well. However, I can't deny the brilliant technical achievements in the LOTR trilogy, and I can't wait to see what kind of tricks Mr. Jackson has up his sleeve for the upcoming Kong re-make. I have a feeling that we're in for some pretty amazing looking hi-jinks there on old Skull Island.

          There's some really good films being made these days-- in spite of what seems to be a certain group in Hollywood that perceives the movie-going public to be largely without taste or intelligence (thinking here of the recent The Cat In The Hat fiasco, but that's just a start). And there's also a lot wonderful old classics being released every month on DVD. In fact that makes us quite a privileged generation of movie geeks here... we can choose from a wide range of genres, from many different decades, and it's all so easily available to us.

          I love old b/w movies and I'll be showing a couple of The Thin Man pictures on New Year's Eve... kind of a tradition. It's always a pleasure to share a martini or two with Mr. and Mrs. Charles.

          Comment

          • George Bellefontaine
            Moderator Emeritus
            • Jan 2001
            • 7637

            #6
            There are quite a few good films being made today, but whenever I watch classics such as Casablanca, High Noon, To Catch A Mockingbird,etc., I find myself thinking " They just don't make films like this anymore."

            Filmmakers of yore had to be creative and smart. King Kong, as Brad pointed out, is a good example. A filmmaker of today who uses a camera the way the oldtimers did is Martin Scorcese. See that continuing camera shot in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta and his entourage enter the nightclub. Of course there are others who use their creativity rather than calling in the cgi guys, and I really appreciate that whenever I see it.




            My Homepage!
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            • Chris D
              Moderator Emeritus
              • Dec 2000
              • 16877

              #7
              I was thinking... I think one genre where technology has definitely HELPED more than hurt is science fiction. I wasn't alive back then, (or old enough at least) but my dad has the firm opinion that "2001: A Space Odyssey" was the first science fiction film that could really be taken seriously. It's difficult to make films about non-reality or a distorted reality without special effects.




              CHRIS
              Luke: "Hey, I'm not such a bad pilot myself, you know"
              CHRIS

              Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
              - Pleasantville

              Comment

              • George Bellefontaine
                Moderator Emeritus
                • Jan 2001
                • 7637

                #8
                Chris, I would certainly agree with what your dad said about 2001. When I saw that big spinning wheel in space for the first time in a theater, I was left breathless. Cgi has certainly done wonders for Sci-Fi films, but one place where I feel it has gone crazy is the action genere, and the last Bond film in particular is a good example.




                My Homepage!
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                • Dean McManis
                  Moderator Emeritus
                  • May 2003
                  • 762

                  #9
                  One thing unmentioned so far is that these are classic films because they have withstood the test of time as being some of the best movies ever made.

                  I believe that there are still great movies being made, but there are usually just a few made each year, as opposed to the best films from the past 50-70 years of filmmaking.

                  I just watched Bad Boys II, which was a painful reminder of Hollywood's appetite for the formula of explosions, action, special effects, catchy one-liners, and flashy style instead of a solid plot, intriguing story, great characters and dialog. But looking back at the money-making popular films of the past and they are often contrived and shallow as well.

                  Still, most people do know what movies have to offer these days, whereas I'm pleased when movie enthusiasts venture past the surface limits of B&W/mono audio to discover the classic gems of film that make up many of the best movies ever made. 8)

                  -Dean.

                  Comment

                  • Bam!
                    Super Senior Member
                    • Jan 2004
                    • 2458

                    #10
                    hey guys!

                    I am reviving this one!

                    I hope you guys aren`t putting down HULK It has to be right up there with (My ultimate classic) Lord of the Flies by John Steinback.

                    That is a movie. period.

                    Thanks for listening!




                    Bam!
                    Got a nice rack to show me ?

                    Comment

                    • David Meek
                      Moderator Emeritus
                      • Aug 2000
                      • 8938

                      #11
                      Okay everyone, let's help Steve find his medication. He's obviously missed a few doses. . . . :alol:




                      David - HTGuide flunky
                      Our "Theater"
                      Our DVDs on DVD Tracker

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                      David - Trigger-happy HTGuide Admin

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                      • Chris D
                        Moderator Emeritus
                        • Dec 2000
                        • 16877

                        #12
                        Bam, I agree, LOTF (not LOTR) is a fantastic book. So many different layers of hidden meaning and insight into human nature. I'm not so sure about the 2 movie versions I've seen, though. I don't know if that book could ever really be truly honored properly in the film medium, just due to its nature.

                        I've started to look more and more at award-winning films from the past 100 years, and either buy some or put them on my 7-page Amazon.com wish list. I just bought "Chorus Line" and "Rocky", as well as others.




                        CHRIS
                        Luke: "Hey, I'm not such a bad pilot myself, you know"
                        CHRIS

                        Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
                        - Pleasantville

                        Comment

                        • Chris D
                          Moderator Emeritus
                          • Dec 2000
                          • 16877

                          #13
                          Well, I recently watched some more of a bunch of "classic" movies that I bought in a cheap sale from Columbia House. Interesting the wide range of my reactions to them. From best to worst, I would rank the ones I watched as:

                          1. Something about Eve
                          2. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
                          3. Rocky
                          4. A Streetcar Named Desire
                          5. Breakfast at Tiffany's

                          Of course, these are very different movies. I really enjoyed the plot that was developed throughout Something About Eve. That was a very good movie with Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe, among others.

                          The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has some very good cinema photography. Great camera shots here and there. At times, it was a little much, such as the long drawn out final "shootout" at the end of the movie. And it certainly was affected by some old acting that would today be considered quite poor. Amazing that this movie was made in another language. Overall though, I liked it!

                          For those that don't know, the original Rocky won several Academy Awards. I don't think I had ever seen the first Rocky all the way through, and my expectations were DEFINITELY influenced by the multiple sequels that I've seen. Very different story than the sequels. I think each of the sequels could be summed up as "Rocky gets a challenge fight, and doesn't do very well, he's down, but trains hard and ends up winning the final battle". The original is VERY much a backstreet, down-to-earth story about an average Joe that gets an opportunity to be a big shot. It's not about winning. I was very surprised actually that he didn't win the final fight. But it's about just doing your best and making something out of yourself even when you have nothing. Some hokie stuff in the movie, that seemed to be realized in the sequels and directors tried to do it better. But they lost the heart and soul of the original. Pretty good!

                          Streetcar Named Desire was highly recommended by several people. This includes Vivian Leigh (think Gone With the Wind) and Marlon Brando, among others. But I was disappointed. Along with the original Psycho, older movies just portrayed mental illness rather strangely. The movie wasn't too bad, but an ending that could have been pretty good ends up looking rather odd and out of place with today's movies. If you consider it "in classic context" there's some good, even great stuff, but I didn't like this one too much.

                          Breakfast at Tiffany's was also recommended to me. Older Audrey Hepburn flick. But I found this to be themed along the lines of "you've got to just break out from societal norms". I'm not a big fan of movies like that, and they end up just not making much impact on me. I has a pretty good love story side theme, but all in all I just ended up asking myself, "well, what's the point?"
                          CHRIS

                          Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
                          - Pleasantville

                          Comment

                          • David Meek
                            Moderator Emeritus
                            • Aug 2000
                            • 8938

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Chris
                            The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has some very good cinema photography. Great camera shots here and there. At times, it was a little much, such as the long drawn out final "shootout" at the end of the movie. And it certainly was affected by some old acting that would today be considered quite poor. Amazing that this movie was made in another language. Overall though, I liked it!
                            Hi guy, good to "see" you back around the forum! :later:

                            Another good "Spagetti" western like TGTBTU is Once Upon A Time In The West starring Henry Fonda (as the villain, no less), Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, and on and on. It's also directed by Sergio Leone, who directed TGTBTU, but has a more polished feel to it - in fact I like it better than TGTBTU. It's been released on DVD just recently with a - for its age - stunningly beautiful PQ. Give it a look. . . .

                            If I remember correctly, this is the only movie Mr. Fonda ever made in which he was the bad guy. Anyone, do you know of any others?
                            .

                            David - Trigger-happy HTGuide Admin

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                            • BradF
                              Member
                              • Nov 2003
                              • 41

                              #15
                              Chris: I agree with your rankings there. All About Eve is one of my all time favourites... smart script and a solid performance from the incomparable Bette Davis. Young Marilyn was very impressive in her too brief appearance.

                              David: Fonda had a great career, didn't he, and was smart enough, or lucky enough, to hook up with some of the very best directors Hollywood had to offer. Check out one of his earliest movies on DVD, You Only Live Once, where he plays a young bank robber on the lam... some call it a pre-cursor of Bonnie and Clyde. Fritz Lang directed. Still, Fonda's character in that one is far removed from his bad guy role in Once Upon A Time In The West. A real departure to be sure.

                              Lots of classic movies to catch up on these days. I've been really enjoying all the film noir titles released in the past few weeks -- Gun Crazy, Out Of The Past, This Gun For Hire, to name just a few. Perfect little gems, in black and white.

                              Comment

                              • Kingdaddy
                                Senior Member
                                • Jan 2004
                                • 355

                                #16
                                Originally posted by Chris Dotur
                                Those who know me know that one of my strongest opinions of books, movies, and television is that current society is LOSING THE ART OF STORYTELLING.

                                I agree with this idea.

                                I see this is a old thread, and though it's a little late to ask, what did you think of ROTK with this story telling epiphany in mind.

                                I loved Ben Hur and have watched my DVD copy many times, it's technically even longer then ROTK, but IMO far more engaging and interesting story. Also FWIW I couldn’t stand Citizen Kane, totally not-engaging.
                                My Center Channel Project

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                                • David Meek
                                  Moderator Emeritus
                                  • Aug 2000
                                  • 8938

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by BradF
                                  Check out one of his earliest movies on DVD, You Only Live Once, where he plays a young bank robber on the lam... some call it a pre-cursor of Bonnie and Clyde. Fritz Lang directed.
                                  Fritz Lang, the director of Metropolis and Henry Fonda together. The mind boggles. :scratchhead:
                                  .

                                  David - Trigger-happy HTGuide Admin

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                                  • George Bellefontaine
                                    Moderator Emeritus
                                    • Jan 2001
                                    • 7637

                                    #18
                                    Fonda playing a bad guy...

                                    Another Fonda western is WARLOCK and here you don't know whether you like or hate the guy as he plays a lawman unto himself. Not a bad western either. Haven't seen it on dvd as yet but I would get it if it is out.
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                                    • markusp
                                      Member
                                      • Jul 2004
                                      • 42

                                      #19
                                      I know I am late to the game so to speak but I feel that Hollywood has mostly lost its way when it comes to making engaging films. Storytelling and character development have fallen wayside in favour of cheap gags, explosions, one liners, slow camera pans etc. Rarely does a scene slowly build up to the boiling point, instead, I feel like I have been microwaved! There is no sense of subtlety at all. Why does the villain always need to die a gruesome and improbable death? Why must sex be quick and explicit? Why must there be 201 different camera angles in each action sequence? Obviously these are generalizations and some great flicks still get made, but many of these are out of the Hollywood system.

                                      Many of the great films from yesteryear were made from great stories / novels. Take Rebecca for example. Great source material. How hard is it to take a great story and make it into a great movie if you have a great script writer, a great director and a great cast? Some would say its damn hard and for the most part I agree. But when you have 12 script writers, multiple re-writes, huge budgets and large egos to contend with, the job must be so much the tougher!!! This is the sad thing about movies today, they have to contend with all these elements. They may end up producing entertaining films (and mostly forgettable films) but rarely are they great films.

                                      That’s why I love DVDs, I can collect the classics and still go to the theater and see something that may interest me. When I was younger, I felt I was wasting my time with older films, especially those in B&W but then a funny thing happened, my parents rented Some Like it Hot, North by Northwest, The Philadelphia Story and Singing in the Rain and I loved each and every one of them. Since then, I was hooked and now have over 200 classic dvds and my collection keeps growing. Conversely, I only have approx. 70 newer movies from the past 2 decades so that definitely speaks to the type of film I prefer.

                                      Cheers :T

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                                      • NMyTree
                                        Senior Member
                                        • May 2004
                                        • 520

                                        #20
                                        I know that was just off the top of your head David, but you can't have a list of great Actors, without including .....

                                        Anthony Hopkins!!


                                        How about .............

                                        Christian Bale

                                        Philip Seymour Hoffman

                                        Jodie Foster

                                        Mel Gibson
                                        Tony

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                                        • David Meek
                                          Moderator Emeritus
                                          • Aug 2000
                                          • 8938

                                          #21
                                          Tony,

                                          I'll definitely agree with all your suggestions except maybe for Phil Hoffman. IMO, the jury is still out on him, although I've really enjoyed his work in Twister, Red Dragon and Almost Famous. Give him a little more time with some juicy roles and he could be right up there with the best.

                                          Hehe, boy did his character in Twister bring back some memories of college. :W
                                          .

                                          David - Trigger-happy HTGuide Admin

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                                          • NMyTree
                                            Senior Member
                                            • May 2004
                                            • 520

                                            #22
                                            As brief as it was, he did a fine job in Cold Mountain.

                                            But lets not forget his wonderful performances in Flawless, Talented Mr. Ripley, 25th Hour, Scent Of A Woman, Magnolia. Guy's done like 30 movies or something.

                                            I'm very interested in seeing him in the yet unreleased ... " Capote" . Here he plays the lead role of Truman Capote.

                                            I think this guy is a brilliant actor.
                                            Tony

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